NEWS26 August 2021

UK government proposes changes to post-Brexit data laws

Brexit GDPR Legal News Privacy UK

UK – The government has said it plans to reform UK data law and has announced John Edwards as its preferred candidate to take over from Elizabeth Denham as UK information commissioner later this year.

john edwards

Edwards (pictured) is currently New Zealand’s privacy commissioner and has 20 years’ experience of practicing law, specialising in information law.

Edwards will appear before members of parliament on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee for scrutiny on 9th September.

The DCMS said in a statement that Edwards would “be empowered to go beyond the regulator’s traditional role of focusing only on protecting data rights, with a clear mandate to take a balanced approach that promotes further innovation and economic growth”.

The government wants to reform the UK’s data protection regime to make it more “innovation-friendly” and will launch a consultation on changes in the coming weeks, according to the DCMS.

The consultation will look at changes to “break down barriers to innovative and responsible uses of data” and is expected to include the role of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

It is unclear to what extent any reforms will diverge from the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Since leaving the EU, the UK has retained the GDPR in domestic law as the UK GDPR, which sits alongside an amended version of the Data Protection Act 2018.

The key principles, rights and obligations have remained the same, but there are differences in rules on transfers of personal data between the UK and the European Economic Area.

In June, the European Commission introduced a four-year ‘sunset clause’ into its data adequacy agreement with the UK and stated it could withdraw the agreement at any time if the UK fails to appropriately protect EU citizens’ data.

The UK government has said it will prioritise forming new data adequacy partnerships with the US, Australia, South Korea, India, Brazil, Kenya and Indonesia.

Digital secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Now that we have left the EU I’m determined to seize the opportunity by developing a world-leading data policy.”

Dowden added: “It means reforming our own data laws so that they’re based on common sense, not box-ticking. And it means having the leadership in place at the ICO to pursue a new era of data-driven growth and innovation. John Edwards’s vast experience makes him the ideal candidate to ensure data is used responsibly to achieve those goals.”

Elizabeth Denham was appointed information commissioner in July 2016. Her five-year term was previously set to end in July but was extended at the start of the year to give the government more time to recruit a successor. She will step down at the end of October.

Denham said: “Data driven innovation stands to bring enormous benefits to the UK economy and to our society, but the digital opportunity before us today will only be realised where people continue to trust their data will be used fairly and transparently, both here in the UK and when shared overseas.

“Implementing any changes parliament decides on will fall to my successor, who will take on a role that has never been more important or more relevant to people’s lives. John Edwards would bring extraordinary breadth, international leadership and credibility to this role. He will receive the support of a modern, independent ICO that has the courage, resources and expertise to make a positive difference to people’s lives.”